Okavango Craft Brewery – Crafting Refreshment From The Waters Of The Delta

Okavango craft brewery, established in 2019, is Maun’s first licensed microbrewery and offers a variety of millet adjunct beers crafted from quality import malts and locally harvested millet.

The beverages contain millet grown by local farmers, bought at surplus price to reward farmers for their pro-coexistence efforts - for using mitigation techniques to protect themselves and their fields from elephants, allowing elephants safe passage along major movement corridors to the Okavango.

Echo speaks to cofounder and director Graham McCulloch about the origins and aims of the Okavango Craft Brewery.

Would you say Okavango Craft Brewery is a Botswana born company or a subsidiary of an international?

It is definitely a Botswana born company, with the concept, design and development all born and developed in Ngamiland.

What is the concept behind the name?

We make a high quality product that will attract the attention of local and international markets and consumers, so we wanted to give the brand some provenance, while making sure we represent the contents of the brands products, i.e. it is made with water from the Okavango Delta and with local produce from rural subsistence farmers living in and around the Okavango. This will appeal to the tourism market and with our unique story behind the brand, allow us to gain support in the market place for the product and therein a local economy based on sound social and environmental principles.

How many employees do you have?

We currently have 9 staff, 8 of which are citizens from Maun. Brewing beer is a scarce skill, so our brewer is from Brazzaville, in the Congo. In time, when the economy improves and things get back to some kind of normality post-COVID -1`9, we will need additional staff and would like to open our brew-pub to serve our quality beer with food.

What is your citizen skill transfer policy like?

Our brewer is currently training a local trainee brewer: Tshidi, who hails from Maun and loves the opportunity to become a brewer. Being Maun’s, and indeed northern Botswana’s first micro-brewery, skills transfer and building capacity among our staff has and will continue to be an essential part of our companies growth and success.

Are all the products and ingredients procured from Botswana?

We import ingredients like some of the malts, the hops and yeast, but all the processing happens on site in Maun. We buy and transport our millet grain from farmers around the Okavango Delta panhandle.

How many liters of beer do you produce in a day/week/month?

With our equipment, we can produce 500l in one brew, which takes between 6-8 hours, so we can brew a large quantity in a week if we brewed every day. However, our production capacity really lies in the fermenting capacity, which currently stands at 4000l – these are large vats where the beer is kept to ferment and then mature before being kegged and ready for consumption. This period varies between 4 to 6 weeks, or longer, depending on what type of beer you make.

When did you start taking the product into the market?

We were literally ready to launch the product when COVID-19 hit – so we are only now able to do so and last week was our first launch of the product, in take away bottles and 1l jugs or growlers, as they are called in the craft beer world, for home consumption.

Do you intend to expand the brewery plant?

Yes, hopefully. In time when we can open our brew pub for large numbers and when the tourism industry gets back on its feet again, we envisage higher sales both over the counter at the brew pub and hopefully through distribution to the local tourism industry.

What efforts do you make to be environmentally friendly?

The process of making beer on site has many interventions to reduce our environmental impact: from solar water heating to reduce energy loading while brewing; reducing importing of goods by using local produce; using reusable bottles and jugs for our product distribution to reduce waste; and treating all of our waste water with a state of the art water treatment plant.

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